Run Viks, RUN

The Portland State cross country team is moving into full stride as they prepare for their next competition this weekend.

The Portland State cross country team is moving into full stride as they prepare for their next competition this weekend.

The Willamette Invitational, held at Salem’s Bush Park, presents a chance for the Portland State runners to continue their season of impressive finishes and personal bests.

Both the men’s and women’s squads have shown an exciting deal of potential, given the flurry of personal bests that accompanied their initial meets in Eugene and Seattle.

After the team’s performance at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle earlier this month, assistant coach Kevin Jeffers is optimistic.

“I personally believe we are going to have a clean slate of personal records again at Wilamette. At Sundodger, everyone PRed and I think we are going to have the same thing again,” he said.

The team has steadily prepared for this weekend’s meet. “We had a really tough week of training last week. This week we were doing a little bit of lower resting, and we’re getting ready to run fast at Willamette,” Jeffers said.

“We’re getting some easy days, we’re getting our legs underneath us and we’re starting to recover,” he said. “We have been hammering away and beating our bodies up, but it will pay off once we get our legs underneath us. We’ll be ready.”

Jeffers says that, as always, there is potential for mistakes. “Going out way too fast. There are a lot of good people there, and we need to be in control of our own race, our own rhythm. And going out too fast can jeopardize that.”

Tensions can grow heavy before the third race of a season. With the team settling into a consistent rhythm, the race presents an indicator as to how the season will progress. But Jeffers is not worried.

“This one, in particular, is great,” he said, “because it can give us a rough estimate of how well we can run at the end of the season. We can estimate our time, what we’re capable of running there and convert that to what we think we can do with another month and a half.”

In Portland State’s first meet, the Pre’s Trail Pre-View in Eugene, junior John Lawrence’s sixth-place time of 23 minutes and 10 seconds in the men’s 6800-meter was a minute and a half improvement over last year, and two other Vikings finished in the top 10 with him. Sophomore Tony Crisofulli finished 10th, also notching a 44-second improvement.

Junior Andrew Salg, a newcomer to the team and former California Community College All-American, became a force to be reckoned with when he placed ninth, in front of Crisofulli.

Freshmen Amber Rozcicha and Amelia Holcombe, newcomers to the women’s group, placed 13th and 14th respectively. Freshman Julie Pederson followed up strong with an 18th-place finish to put four Vikings in the top 20.

At Sundodger, the second competition of the season, the team finished with even more improvements. Lawrence established himself as a frontrunner on the team by again leading the pack and setting a personal best.

Despite a muddy trail, the team set down a total of nine personal bests that day, with seven of them coming from the women’s team, which finished in sixth place.

Junior Stephanie Deever finished strong with a 17-second improvement from last year, but was bested by Pederson.

The Willamette Invitational begins Friday at 3 p.m. and runs through Saturday.